Zimbabwe in political limbo after military takeover

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Zimbabwe in political limbo after military takeover
Zimbabwe in political limbo after military takeover

Harare : Zimbabwe remained in political limbo a day-and-a-half after the military takeover that appears to have put an end to Robert Mugabe's 37-year grip on power.

Talks between the ousted President, who has been confined to his residence in Harare by the Army, and senior military officers continued on Thursday with senior church leaders and envoys from neighbouring South Africa involved in mediation efforts.

Harare remained tense but calm amid the political uncertainty. Troops have secured the airport, government offices, Parliament and other key sites. The rest of the country remained peaceful. 

The takeover has been cautiously welcomed by many Zimbabweans, the Guardian reported.

The military declared on national television early on Wednesday that it had temporarily taken control of the country to "target criminals" around the 93-year-old President. 

The intervention came after weeks of political turmoil, in which Mugabe sacked his powerful Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the way for Mugabe's wife Grace to succeed him.

The move exacerbated divisions in the ruling Zanu-PF party. 

Mnangagwa enjoyed wide support in the military and was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe. Reports that Grace Mugabe had fled to Namibia on Wednesday appeared false, with the Guardian quoting several sources as saying that she was detained with her husband in their residence.

The future of the first lady is a key element in the ongoing discussions between Mugabe and the military. 

Singapore and Malaysia, where the Mugabes own property, are potential destinations if she is allowed to travel into exile.

Critics have accused Mugabe of hurling his country's economy while using revolutionary rhetoric and indulging in corruption and coercion to stave off threats from opponents. 

South Africa appeared to be backing the takeover and sent ministers to Harare to help with negotiations to form a new government and decide the terms of Mugabe's resignation.

The African Union called for the "constitutional order to be restored immediately and ... all stakeholders to show responsibility and restraint".

The regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) is due to hold emergency talks in Botswana on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

A high-profile opposition leader in Zimbabwe said there was "a lot of talking going on" with the Army reaching out to different factions to discuss the formation of a transitional government.

The official said Mugabe would resign this week and be replaced by Mnangagwa, with opposition leaders taking posts as Vice President and Prime Minister. 

The Movement for Democratic Change's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been tipped as a potential Prime Minister in a new political set-up.

Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti told the BBC he wanted to see a transitional authority in place. "It is urgent that we go back to democracy. It is urgent that we go back to legitimacy but we need a transitional period." 

"... I think, I hope, that dialogue can now be opened between the Army and Zimbabweans, (that) dialogue can be opened between the Army and regional bodies such as the SADC and, indeed, the African Union," he said.